PUC Crackdown

By Sara Bloomberg
The Guardsman 

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is trying to take over use of City College’s Southeast Campus in the Bayview district for its own purposes and renege on earlier promises to fund the expansion of programs at the campus.

In July of 2009 the PUC and the San Francisco Community College District entered into a five-year lease agreement for the Southeast Community Facility, located at 1800 Oakdale Avenue.
In the agreement, the PUC leased part of the facility to the college to house “City College of San Francisco classrooms and support facilities.” The college has had a continuous presence at the Southeast Community Facility for decades.
At the Board of Trustees meeting on October 28, Trustee Dr. Anita Grier described the college’s ambitious plans for expanding programs at the campus. These plans which had been agreed to by both the college, the PUC and the community at the beginning of the summer, were crafted in what she described as a truly collaborative process.
The plans included offering an expanded selection of classes for ESL, GED, culinary arts, nursing, and basic skills, which the PUC had promised to fund.
“Imagine our surprise when the Chancellor received a letter from the PUC that said […] the SFPUC has proposed to shrink the Southeast campus footprint to [just] the fourth floor of the Southeast facility,” said Trustee Dr. Grier.
The commission maintains that they are operating transparently.
Director of Communications for the SFPUC Tyrone Jue said in an email dated November 9, “We both value the importance of ensuring that vibrant programs and services are provided at the Southeast Community Facility consistent with the mitigation requirements associated with this Facility.  No decisions about space programming have been made.”

Bayview resident, elder and activist Espanola Jackson reminded the board that funding for the Southeast Campus was promised to the Bayview-Hunters Point community in conjunction with the PUC’s Community Benefit Program.

The program, developed in 2009 after talks between the PUC and the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, an 11-member body that acts as a liaison with the community and various organizations, including the PUC, is intended to ameliorate problems in communities where the actions of the PUC have created undesirable effects.

For the Bayview-Hunters Point community, the program seeks to mitigate the effects of a sewer treatment plant located in that district. The Southeast Community Facility itself was built by the city of San Francisco as the first of many mitigation measures to compensate residents for the construction in 1952 of the Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant in their midst.

In exchange for allowing the construction in their district of the only water treatment plant in San Francisco, the residents were promised that educational opportunities would be provided to local youth; youth who have suffered the effects of poverty and violence.

The Bayview-Hunters Point communities are predominately black and poor, furthering the community’s concerns about the impact of limiting access to educational programs that are in high demand within an area that has been historically under-served.

Jackson explained to the Board that many Southeast Campus students are not able to commute to other campuses due to gang related “turf” zones.

“My people don’t be traveling into other areas because of turf,” said Jackson.

“When that facility was built, it was because of mitigation and it was for education and training. [The Southeast campus] was to be an educational institute, not for [whatever] the PUC wants,” said Jackson.

Another speaker at the Board meeting, Ingrid Wynn, Associated Students President of Evans campus, called for the board and the community to look at other options.

“Either find another location that we can actually call our own […] or why don’t we just sue ‘em for the years that we have left as far as rent time? Maybe they can pay for the classes that we would have had,” said Wynn.

Trustee Steve Ngo encouraged the public to return when the board discusses budget allocations, so that their voices are heard during that crucial time, and affirmed his support for the campus.

“I believe that the district should spend more money [at the Southeast campus] anyway, whether or not PUC does or not,” said Trustee Ngo.

Board President John Rizzo commented that although the PUC is a highly functional organization it is not an educational institution.

“When City College says that for a fully functional campus we need 127,000  square feet and the PUC says ‘no you don’t, you need 25,000 square feet’, they’re wrong. They don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Rizzo.

City College currently serves over 100,000 students across nine campuses and three centers and is the largest community college in the nation.

Shortly before becoming independent in 1970 with the formation of the San Francisco Community College District, college administrators decided that long term success would require maintaining several neighborhood campuses that would address the varied needs and changing demographics of communities around the city.

 

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